DP88 A weak state and strong microsocieties in Papua New Guinea

Development Policy Centre Discussion Paper No. 88

By Nematullah Bizhan and Emmanuel Gorea

October 2020

The case of Papua New Guinea (PNG) shows the difficulty of forging a national identity and creating effective state institutions. State weakness and societal fragmentation are dominant. The archipelago nature of the country has had a dominant role in the latter. Politics in this context shows a stable-fragile characteristic. On the one hand, despite persistent political instability, democracy has survived in the past half-century mainly due to societal diversity and the consensual nature of decision-making embedded in communities. On the other, even though PNG is a resource-rich county, successive governments have not converted the economic benefits of the mineral boom into effective development outcomes, and high levels of poverty and inequality exist. We argue that many of these characteristics reinforce each other, trapping the country, for now, in a low-level equilibrium. In this paper, we aim to examine dimensions of state fragility and look at what might change, and how PNG might break out of the equilibrium currently trapping the country in poverty and state weakness.

Bizhan, N. & Gorea, E. 2020, ‘A weak state and strong microsocieties in Papua New Guinea’,  Discussion Paper No. 88, Development Policy Centre, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, Canberra.

Nematullah Bizhan

Nematullah Bizhan is a senior lecturer at the Development Policy Centre. He lectures in public policy at the University of Papua New Guinea as part of the Centre’s partnership with UPNG.

Emmanuel Gorea

Emmanuel Gorea is a Lecturer in public policy and Head of Public Policy Management at the School of Business and Public Policy, The University of Papua New Guinea.